Behavior and Etiquette: Food and Dining - Dining Etiquette

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There are many differences (and some similarities) between Pakistani and Western dining etiquette. When invited to dinner at a home, one should arrive fifteen minutes late but never later than one hour. Upon entering the home, your shoes should be left at the door. When it is time to eat, women and men will have their meals in separate rooms (however, when there are no guests families generally eat together as a group). Pakistanis, concerned with the cleanliness of their hands, may provide a basin of water for hand-washing before the meal begins. In the dining room, let the host show you the proper place to sit. The meals will be served from a table cloth on the floor or on a knee high table [13]. It is best to sit cross-legged when asked to be seated. Never show the bottom of your feet as this would seem extremely rude since they are seen as filthy. Not unlike Americans, some Pakistanis will say a prayer of thanks to Allah before they begin eating. The prayer usually consist of "Bismillahi ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem" which means "In the name of Allah, most Gracious, Most Merciful." At the end of the meal a person may say "Alhamduillah" which means "All Praise is due to Allah."

Because you are a guest you will be served first and given the best cuts of meat. However, do not begin eating until the most senior member has begun. The food will be served in a communal style where everyone takes food from the same dishes. When reaching for food use only your right hand but once you have put food on your plate it is alright to use both hands to eat (though using your right hand only is still a better idea). There may be no utensils with which to eat; food is eaten by balling up pieces at the end of your fingertips [14]. You may be expected to accept up to three helpings. Indicating that one is full will be perceived as politeness and will not be taken seriously. If you are not hungry you can still accept a small helping and nibble at it slowly. Unlike in America, Pakistanis generally do not talk during a meal because it is more of a contemplative activity. Let the senior and/or host set the tone of the meal.




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